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Top Schools for Illustration and Drawing

Read about top art schools that offer drawing and illustration programs in the U.S. See what's available at three top-notch institutions, and find an easy-to-read table that highlights some key program features at other schools in the country that offer formal training in drawing and illustration.

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School Overview

High-ranking art programs and instruction in drawing and illustration can be found at a renowned art institute, Ivy League university and school of design. Two of the schools offer undergraduate programs in drawing and painting; aspiring artists who are admitted to Yale University's exclusive graduate program can earn a Master of Fine Arts.

Top U.S. Schools with Illustration and Drawing Programs

1. Yale University in New Haven, CT

In 2008, Yale University placed first among U.S. News and World Report's list of top art schools for painting and drawing. While the School of Art does not offer any undergraduate programs, students can earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in a number of disciplines, including graphic design, sculpture, photography and painting/printmaking. Coursework in drawing and illustration are offered through the painting and printmaking department. Admission to the program is highly selective, with approximately 21 students admitted each year.

2. School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in Chicago, IL

As of 2008, SAIC ranked second among U.S. News and World Report's list of top drawing and painting programs. Unique to the school is the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to design their own courses of study. For example, undergraduate students may pursue combined studies in architectural design, drawing and illustration. Graduate students are encouraged to experiment with their studies and create a multidisciplinary approach to their education, resulting in a unique educational experience for each student.

3. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, RI

RISD ranked number one among general fine arts schools in 2008, according to U.S. News and World Report. In the same year, it also placed third for its drawing and painting programs. RISD offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Illustration program that allows students to work with sketched, painted and computer-generated images. Additional program features include the chance to develop a professional portfolio.

List of Ten Good Art Schools in the U.S.

School Name Distinction Location
Indiana University - Bloomington Program for International Visiting Artist-in-Residence (PIVA) Bloomington, IN
University of California - Los Angeles Upper-division undergraduate students are given their own studio space Los Angeles, CA
Temple University Has an additional campus for study abroad and exhibition opportunities for students in Rome Philadelphia, PA
Virginia Commonwealth University Three MacArthur Genius Awards given to students in the last three years Richmond, VA
Columbia University Has LeRoy Neiman gallery and many associations with other galleries in New York City New York, NY
Yale University Very selective program in drawing and painting New Haven, CT
School for the Art Institute of Chicago Has a unique curriculum developed for and by each student Chicago, IL
Rhode Island School of Design Focuses its illustration curriculum through a variety of methods Providence, RI
California Institute of the Arts Features the weekly Paul Brach Visiting Artist Lecture Series Valencia, CA
Cranbrook Academy of Art Weekly critiques and reading lists and seminars are used to guide the learning process Bloomfield Hills, MI
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  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Michigan include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Advertising and Commercial Design
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
        • Illustration and Drawing
        • Industrial Design
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
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    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Virginia Commonwealth University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Diploma
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Fashion Design
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
        • Illustration and Drawing
        • Interior Design and Decorating
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
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    • New York (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Rochester Institute of Technology include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Advertising and Commercial Design
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
        • Illustration and Drawing
        • Industrial Design
        • Interior Design and Decorating
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Photography, Film, and Video

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